“Our day-to-day focus is on building better relationships between the club and the supporters and wider communities”
“TT have always been supportive of the TUST and what they are trying achieve, so we caught up with Chairman Michel Thomas to gather his thoughts..”
TT – Hi Mike, good to catch up with you – what have the TUST been up to over the summer?
MT – Like most supporters, the board have been enjoying the good feelings that last season’s success brought. It’s naturally a quiet time for us to reflect on the success of the initiatives we introduced last year and to plan for the coming season.
Some fans might question why we need a trust when things are going so well on and off the field, how would you respond to that?
I think our role is misunderstood by some fans. It is quite clearly set out in our mission statement as promoting good governance and seeking to ensure the long-term sustainability of our club for the benefit of current and future supporters and the wider community.
So how does the TUST deliver that?
The headline statement is under-written by our core objectives of representing supporters, promoting supporter influence, community engagement, good governance and being inclusive.
How can TUST claim to represent supporters?
Membership of TUST is open to anyone with TUFC at heart. It is an entirely democratic body where every member has an equal say, can stand for election to the board or vote in such elections. At the present time it is also the only organised representative body for Torquay fans.
There is a view in some quarters that TUST is a negative or even militant group, how would you respond to that?
That certainly isn’t the case. Our board members are a diverse group of long-standing fans who support the club in different ways and bring different skills and perspectives to the table. We are a positive, friendly bunch with a ‘can-do’ attitude and always willing to meet fans so please feel welcome to get in touch or say ‘hello’ on match days. I certainly wouldn’t describe any of us as militant or overtly political!
So it’s not about seeking ownership of Torquay United?
No, not at all. As I said, we are only interested in the long-term sustainability of our great club and aim to work with the owners, whoever they may be, to achieve that objective. We are open to anything that will truly deliver that goal, including relocation to a new stadium so long as such proposals are deliverable and sustainable and achieved in consultation with the fans and do not put the club’s future at risk. On the other hand, it is one of our fundamental duties for us to be as prepared as possible to step in to ensure the survival of the club if the worst was ever to happen. This could, of course, entail our members considering supporting the options of part or community ownership.
What can you do in the short-term to assist the club?
Our day-to-day focus is on building better relationships between the club and the supporters and wider communities. Initiatives such as the Matchday Ambassadors and Fan Zones which have been launched and supported by TUST volunteers. We have also built strong relations with the Community Sports Trust and are currently in discussions with them to provide financial support for the new TQ1 Club aimed at young supporters.
What is your current relationship like with the club?
Sadly, the lack of communication between the club and TUST is our biggest frustration. We have been requesting a meeting since the beginning of the year and have now been promised a meeting with the Chief Executive this month but in the meantime we have been told that the club doesn’t want the Ambassadors this season with no explanation as to why.
Doesn’t the club appreciate the value of what TUST has to offer?
It appears not. For example, we have organised a trophy in memory of Ian Twitchin, in conjunction with his family, to be awarded to the player who makes most appearances each season. We have bought a trophy with generous donations from a couple of our members but, despite numerous requests initiated three weeks before the end of last season, the club have not co-operated with us to find a suitable date for the presentation to Liam Davis.
What about TUST’s relationship with other interested parties?
We work hard to maintain a dialogue with a variety of people including supporters’ trusts from other clubs and the national bodies which act of their behalf. We also have regular contact with our MP and representatives and leaders of the main local parties and the groups of councillors. TUST is a non-political organisation, but it is in our remit to keep our community representatives informed about matters affecting the club, particularly where these may put the club’s future at risk and its importance to the local community as an asset.
And finally, apart from a constructive dialogue with the club, what are your hopes for the new season?
More members would be good! Details of how to join can be found on our website www.tust.co.uk. An increase in members, as well as of volunteers for our already active group, would enable us to support our club further. Just two examples, funding and assisting the newly proposed young supporters TQ1 group and continuing the TUFC community Outreach Hub programme, in partnership with the Community Sports Trust, which has been so successful.
On the pitch I am hoping for another entertaining and exciting season with the wonderful Gary Johnson in charge, delivering his own brand of the beautiful game and encouraging the youngsters and more seasoned pros together. It’s going to be much tougher, but I believe our united aim to return to the English Football League is a justifiable one! COYY!